Three Poems from The Fabric of the Universe by Andrée Chedid
Thr ee Poems from Th e Fabric of the Universe by Andr?e Chedid
Kathryn L. Kimball 0
0 Drew University
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Three Poems from
The Fabric of the Universe
L??toffe de l?univers
Still Here Passing Through
De passage je suis encore l?
the road of life
brief and fleet
this one-way trip
will find me soon
no ?see you later.?
And if I were a long-distance runner, would I rest at the end of my
race, would I not increase my effort?
Running, running everywhere, never stopping. Take off running,
increase the incline, never give up. The key word is effort. More and more
effort is required to get to the end of a race or to the end of anything. Life is
made up of constant effort. I agree with the old cynic?and yet leisure, even
laziness, seem to me as important as effort, linked as words are in
In short, I prefer that lounging Diogenes who said to Alexander:
?Move out of my sun.?
Growing Old VI
this losing touch
with the universe
this too short life
this home boarded up now
soon to be nowhere
These broken ties
with the world
this far too brief a time
this total absurdity
with my own mind
the final period of this sentence
never wished for.
Andr?e Chedid Vieillir VI
Do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
It?s true that there is plenty to rage about. But what good would
that do? And since the poet says the night is ?good,? I prefer, instead of
raging, to go there as ?gently? as I can.
I've had enough of dying
day after day
of letting time
slip through my fingers
I?ve had enough of dwindling
day after day
of losing my tomorrows
The sap of memory
no longer flows
Silence settles all around
Our clasped hands
in the grass
My mind has deserted me
The day wraps itself up
swaddling me inside
abandons me on the riverbank
I demand redress
and let vast death
take my place
Everything begins with memory and everything ends with it. . .
The present is opaque.
The opacity of the present is an immense problem. Everything is
remembrance; everything is memory recomposing or reviving itself. So
nothing is lost? To the flashy showman demonstrating how to develop memory,
the Philosopher poses this question: ?How do we learn to forget?? If only
Alzheimer's, in splitting open the breastplate of language and abolishing the
Newtonian certainties of time, space, matter, and the principle of causality,
could teach us something. Why not? And if God had truly willed, as St. Paul
declares, that our wisdom be folly and our folly be wisdom. Why not?
Andr?e Chedid was born in Cairo in 1920 of
Lebanese-Christian ancestry. In 1946, she moved to Paris with her physician
husband, eventually becoming a French citizen. During her
lifetime, Chedid published over forty volumes of poems, novels,
short stories, and plays, which won numerous prizes, including
Prix Mallarm? (1976), Prix Goncourt de la Nouvelle (1979), and
Prix Goncourt de la Po?sie (2002). In 2006, she completed The
Fabric of the Universe while suffering from the first stages of
Alzheimer?s. As an integral and unique part of many of the
poems in this last volume, Chedid included quotations from other
writers as well as her own reflections in prose. She died in 2011.
To render Chedid?s straightforward diction, I keep the
English simple. The lines of this English translation correspond
to the lines of the French original, although very occasionally,
line order may be switched for comprehension and/or effect.
Chedid?s verse runs on an engine of high-octane verbs,
with few adjectives and fewer adverbs, and I try to find sharp
English equivalents, such as ?dwindling,? ?swaddling,?
?clearing? pathways and ?breaching? walls. Some minor stylistic
features of Chedid?s poetry are minimized in this English
translation. The capital letters beginning each of Chedid?s lines are
generally cut back either to a capital at the start of each stanza
or to a change in the thought-stroke within the stanza. I keep to
Chedid?s practice of no period until the last line.
I agree with Antoine Berman that translators cannot
help but destroy the rhythm of the original language, its unique
linguistic patternings, its golden expressions, idioms, and
associative chains (Berman in Venuti 276?289*). Even though
every translation falsifies the original, still one must attempt this
?false fidelity? to connect across languages and cultures.
Shakespeare?s Sonnet 138 comes to mind:
O, love's best habit is in seeming trust,
. . .
Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flatter'd be.
Indeed, there can only be a seeming trust between two texts.
Assuredly, there?s unavoidable lying going on, which actually
allows them to co-exist and which permits the glorious privilege
of lying side by side?text and translation. Since cloning a twin
text is impossible, a text with a remarkable family resemblance
is the next best thing. I can only hope that I have found
adequate rhythms and expressions in English to accomplish this
task, and that, as translator, I have justly rendered Chedid?s
?De passage je suis encore l?,? ?Vieillir VI,? and ?Mourir IV? in L?Etoffe de
l?univers ? Flammarion.
*Venuti, Lawrence. (ed.), The Translation Studies Reader . 2nd ed., Routledge , 2004 .
Chedid , Andr?e. L'?toffe de l'univers. Flammarion , 2010 , pp. 81 , 102 - 03 , 117 , Post-Scriptum, pp. 137 , 142 , 146 .